Bodes well for Clooney's future behind the camera!
L. Quido | Tampa, FL United States | 11/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
Black and white, and set in 50's America, "Good Night and Good Luck" is the sign off slogan of one of America's greatest journalists and early television pioneers, Edward R. Murrow. Murrow made his bones in WWII as a correspondent, and continued with a distinguished career as a journalist and radio/television newsman at CBS in the 50's and early 60's.
"Good Night and Good Luck" is a jewel of a film for the history buff who still shakes their head at the paranoia and all encompassing aspects of the McCarthy witch hunt in the 50's. I think you just had to be alive then, and feeling the fear we all felt of the Cold War and the specter of Communism, to understand how this land could have been misled and led by the nose thanks to the "junior Senator from Wisconsin".
Some reviewers say that the clash between Murrow and McCarthy, between a free television press and television that is simply an entertainment venue, is as engrossing for those who aren't fully aware of that era of our history, as it is for those of us who lived then. Perhaps, but I think not. Part of what makes the film a success is the director's infallible instinct in recreating the 50's...from the prevalence of smoking to the clothes, sets and dialogue of those who lived through the era.
What a marvelous piece of imagery it was to utilize only filmclips of McCarthy in the movie, instead of getting an actor's portrayal. With this film, Geoge Clooney fully establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with, in filmmaking. Directing, assisting with the script, and acting the part of Edward R. Murrow's boss, Fred Friendly. The film is terse and pointed, perhaps more suited to a venue like HBO than it is to the movie house, and while it boasts a strong message in today's media bashing climate, and some incredibly strong performances, it still lacks that indefinable something that makes a fine film a great one.
Perhaps it is the lack of the human spark in the characters. The romance of two of CBS' staffers, the Wershbas (Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson) is little more than a sidebar. And while the faceoff between CBS' owner, William Paley (Frank Langella in a dynamic return to drama) and Murrow is not for the faint of heart, it is still cold and calculated. Some of the emotion is missing. Thus, the suicide role for television announcer Don Hollenbeck (Ray Wise) is more matter of fact than heartbreaking.
Clooney is fine in his role and the supporting cast, including television actors Tate Donovan and Reed Diamond, do excellent work. But any review of this film pales without the mention of David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow. Deciding, at the risk of his own career, to take McCarthy on, Murrow was a quiet symbol of what is great in America. As Murrow, Strathairn is eerily a recreation of the man himself, with the quiet, convincing style that belies a man of impeccable reputation. Strathairn is a bit of a journeyman, with a long history of memorable small parts. You may not even remember him in L.A. Confidential, in The Firm, in The River Wild, or over the course of a 25 year film career. You remember you've seen him before, but you can't remember where. Less easy to forget is his memorable turn as Robert "Bob" Wegler, A.J.'s guidance counselor in the 2004 run of "The Sopranos". As Bob, Strathairn was far less interested in helping A.J. than he was in bedding Carmela, which he did in a delicious turn of events on the show.
As Murrow, Strathairn has come into his own as an actor; he is a quiet force on the screen, the reincarnation of the newsman. Affable and steely, he makes you believe in his cause, which is not bringing down Joe McCarthy, but rather bringing up the quality of the television industry, to make it more than just another entertainment venue. Clooney chose well when he chose Strathairn, and the actor's passion and intensity shines through in the role. I suppose there may be a better turn in a leading actor's role in film this year, but at this point, I have not seen any.
For the serious film buff, "Good Night and Good Luck" is being shown in limited release around the country, and will not win the hearts and minds of many who go to films to be strictly entertained. The message is too intense, the film too understated for most. However, it is among the very best in films released this year, and while somewhat emotionless for the audience, one can tell that it was a labor of love for the filmmakers.
In a sidebar, the clips of songstress Diane Reeves singing 50's jazz between interludes was incredibly enjoyable!
If only they could have found a way to include my favorite Murrow quote about television:
"If we were to do the Second Coming of Christ in color for a full hour, there would be a considerable number of stations which would decline to carry it on the grounds that a Western or a quiz show would be more profitable."
Television's only proud moment
Rocco Dormarunno | Brooklyn, NY | 05/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie will be attacked, and for all the wrong reasons. It will be interpreted as a piece of leftist agit-prop. It will be attacked for being filmed in black and white and entirely indoors. But these complaints should not make the potential viewer think that this movie is not worth the watching. That is incredibly wrong.
GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK captures a piece of time which is rapidly moving from current events to history. This is sad. The great Edward R. Murrow's meritorious dedication to the integrity of journalism is fast fading from the American memory. And while GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK only examines one aspect of his long career, what an aspect it is! Murrow's pit-bull grip to bring down the infamous Joseph McCarthy was probably the highlight of his career. (Unfortunately, it also relegated both men to the "back row" of their professions, in the long run.) Some people have read about how political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, brought down Boss Tweed in the 19th Century. Some people remember how Woodward and Bernstein were an integral part of forcing Nixon out of office. But this journalist's contribution to restoring sanity to America during the 1950s is hardly remembered, and not at all talked about in schools (unless you take a journalism class--and that's maybe!)
The performances are wonderful. Strathairn IS Edward R. Murrows: remarkably understated and still very intense. George Clooney, as Fred Friendly, is his perfect foil--very extroverted and constantly joking. It was good to see Robert Downey Jr. take such a serious role, again. His portrayal of Chaplin is the last serious thing I think he did. Jeff Daniels was perfectly cast as the tooth grinding stuffed shirt, and Frank Langella was on-the-money as the powerful William Paley, owner of CBS.
My only negative comment concerns the amount of time spent on the love affair between Downey and Patricia Clarkson. It really leads to an anticlimactic conclusion. The time would've been better spent helping younger viewers with some more exposition and gathering more sympathy for Ray Wise's Dan Hollenbeck, who was as much a target of the McCarthy sycophants as anyone else. (I would have also enjoyed more time watching McCarthy being brought down.) Still, this should BY NO MEANS prevent from watching this important film. It may not fit into your political views, but GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK will definitely fulfil the film lover in you.
An excellent movie, but many will miss the point
Matthew Killmon | Harrisonburg, VA | 01/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie doesn't propose that all of McCarthy's accusations were paranoid delusions, any more than Murrow believed that there wasn't a single Soviet spy in the United States during the 40's and 50's. Certainly there were spies uncovering U.S. secrets, as surely as our CIA had spies operating in the Soviet Union. What Murrow disagreed with, and what he felt a responsibility to tackle, was the demagoguery of a single junior senator from Wisconsin who overstepped the limits of his allotted powers and caused a nation to tremble before him. Murrow stepped up to the plate and executed the media's watchdog role in an era when conformity and towing the government line was expected. Certainly there were communist agents in the U.S., but McCarthy wasn't interested in facts-he was interested in a witch hunt that would prolong his own power.
Political overtones aside (and certainly, given the nature of this events depicted in the film and the time of its release, there are many), "Good Night & Good Luck" is a superbly executed film. Its black and white cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, and evokes the true feeling of the 50's perfectly. Strathairn absolutely inhabits the character of Murrow, portraying not only his unwavering sense of journalistic pursuit, but also the conflicted and often deeply troubled personality lurking beneath the face and voice an entire nation trusted. Moreover, the entire ensemble works brilliantly together to bring back an age in broadcasting that will likely never be seen again-CBS run by the overwhelming presence of Bill Paley. And the film is complemented by a gorgeous score from Dianne Reeves that helps to frame not only the time period but the underlying themes of the story itself. All in all, a cinematic triumph and an excellent portrayal of an event in American broadcasting history that deserves to be remembered."
An Awesome Film
Anna M. Allred | Talbott, TN USA | 06/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As I watched this, I was transported to the early 1950s and felt immersed in the plot. George Clooney did a brilliant job directing, writing and performing in this film. I loved the way the film was interspersed with real McCarthy footage. It flowed wonderfully! This film made me think. Although I am an elementary teacher, I majored in journalism and this film made me go back to those courses and, sadly, realize that current journalism pales in comparison to Murrow's work. This film is one that ranks with "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington". It should be required viewing for all newsmen, government officials, and those of us who seek equality for all"